Why does my body hurt when I sneeze?

Woman about to sneeze

Why does my body hurt when I sneeze? You're probably familiar with the sensation of a sneeze coming on. First, you feel a tickle in your nose, and before you know it, you've let out a loud "achoo!" 

Sneezing is one of the most common human reflexes, and it's usually nothing to worry about. But sometimes, your body can hurt after sneezing.

Here's what might be causing your body to hurt after sneezing and what you can do about it.

Table of Contents

Types of Pain After Sneezing

Full body pain

When you sneeze, you create a temporary pressure in the back area near your spinal cord and the nerve roots that go out to the rest of your body. This pressure can also increase in the discs between your vertebrae.

The sinus problem caused you to sneeze, and the sneezing made one or more of the discs in your lower neck break down. That made the nucleus of the disc bulge out or partially come out through the annular fiber part of the disc into the area where your spine and nerve roots are.

The less space around the nerves, the less pressure there is when you sneeze. That means that the nerves going to your arms and shoulders are briefly inflamed when you sneeze because of the extra stress.

Chest pain

Chest pain when sneezing can happen for a few different reasons. It is often related to an illness, damage, or injury to the chest wall.

The pain may worsen when you sneeze because this causes the bones and muscles in your chest to move. Muscle strain is a cause of chest pain when sneezing.

Abdominal pain

When you sneeze, the pressure around your abdominal area increases. Sneezing increases in pressure are transmitted to the abdominal wall, which can cause pain that is mild or acute.

Arm pain

When you sneeze, it usually only takes a fraction of a second. You can go back to what you were doing once you're done.

But sometimes, sneezing can cause other symptoms like a shooting pain in one or both arms, which can be nasty and make it hard to do things with your arms over time.

Arm pain intensity when sneezing can vary from person to person. For some, the pain is only mild and lasts for a short time. But for others, the pain can be severe and last for days or weeks.

That is usually associated with cardiovascular disease. Especially if it feels like the pain is coming from your shoulder and down your arm to your fingers. That isn't usually related to sneezing.

How to prevent pain during sneezes

There are few things more annoying than sneezing and feeling pain simultaneously. Thankfully, you can do a few things to prevent this from happening.

  • First, try to sneeze with your mouth open. That will help to release the pressure gradually, rather than all at once.
  • Second, try to avoid clenching your fists or teeth while you sneeze. That can put unnecessary strain on your muscles and lead to pain.
  • Finally, if you need to sneeze but can't, take a deep breath and hold it for a few seconds.

That will help to ease the urge to sneeze and might prevent you from feeling any pain.

When should I see a doctor?

When you feel pain while sneezing, it might be just a matter of time before the sneeze itself is painful.

It's not always easy to tell when a sneeze will hurt, but it might be best to see a doctor if the pain is severe.

A few things could be causing the pain, and a doctor will be able to help you figure out what's going on.

Infection in your sinuses

One possibility is that you have an infection in your sinuses. That can happen when your body is fighting off a cold or allergies.

The infection can cause inflammation and pressure in the sinuses, leading to pain when you sneeze.

Trigeminal neuralgia

Another possibility is that you have a condition called trigeminal neuralgia.

This nerve disorder affects the trigeminal nerve, which runs from your brain to your face.

Trigeminal neuralgia can cause sharp, shooting pains in the face, and it can be triggered by things like sneezing or brushing your teeth.

If you're having pain while sneezing, it's essential to see a doctor so they can figure out what's causing it and help you find relief.

Causes of Pain when Sneezing

Pinched Nerves

When you sneeze, all of your muscles contract at once. That includes the muscles in your abdomen, back, and chest.

The sudden contraction can cause a lot of pressure to build up in your spinal column.

If you have a pinched nerve, this pressure can cause the nerve to become aggravated and inflamed.

As a result, you may experience sharp pain that radiates down your spine or into your extremities.

Sneezing can also cause pain if you have arthritis or another condition that affects the joints in your spine.

The sudden movement may exacerbate the inflammation and cause additional pain.

If you experience pain when sneezing, it is best to consult with a doctor to determine the underlying cause.

If you have a pinched nerve, your doctor may recommend physical therapy.

Dislocated Vertebra

When you sneeze, the muscles in your chest contract, resulting in a sudden release of air.

That can cause the bones in your spine to shift out of alignment, resulting in pain.

The pain may be temporary, but it can be pretty severe. In some cases, the dislocation may even cause the vertebrae to pinch the nerves that run through them, resulting in numbness or tingling.

If you sneeze frequently, or if your sneezes are particularly violent, you may be at risk for developing a condition known as slipped discs.

That occurs when the discs between your vertebrae become damaged or dislocated.

Slipped discs can be extremely painful and may require surgery to correct.

If you experience pain when sneezing, it is essential to see a doctor to rule out severe underlying conditions.


Accident victims. If you were in a car accident, or any other type of accident that resulted in injury, it is possible that the sneezing is causing the pain because of the damage to your body.

When you sneeze, your muscles contract and pressure the injured area, resulting in pain, inflammation, and even further damage.

If you were in an accident, it is vital to see a doctor.

They will be able to determine the extent of your injuries and recommend the best course of treatment.

Herniated Discs

Sneezing is generally a reflexive response to an irritant, such as dust or pollen.

However, for some people, sneezing can be accompanied by pain. One potential cause of this pain is a herniated disc.

A herniated disc occurs when the disc's soft center bulges out through a tear in the outer wall.

That can place pressure on the nerves, resulting in pain. In addition, herniated discs are often caused by wear and tear on the discs, which can occur with age.

However, they can also be caused by injury or repetitive motions. If you experience pain when sneezing, it is essential to see a doctor to rule out other potential causes and determine the best treatment course.

Muscle Strain

When we sneeze, our abdominal muscles contract powerfully to expel air from our lungs.

That can put a lot of strain on the muscles and connective tissue around the waist, resulting in pain.

Additionally, sneezing can also cause headaches by jarring the bones and muscles in the head and neck.

However, you can take some simple steps to reduce the risk of muscle strain when sneezing.

First, make sure to yawn or take deep breaths before sneezing to help loosen up your muscles.

Second, try to sneeze with your mouth open to help release the pressure gradually.

Finally, don't hold back a sneeze. Letting it out will help reduce the strain on your muscles.

Vertebral Compression Fractures

Vertebral compression fractures occur when the bones in the spine collapse due to pressure.

That can happen due to osteoporosis, cancer, or other diseases that weaken the bones.

In some cases, the fracture may cause the spinal cord to become pinched, leading to pain, numbness, and weakness.

If you experience pain when sneezing, it is crucial to see a doctor to rule out severe underlying conditions.

A vertebral compression fracture may not seem like a severe injury, but it can significantly impact your quality of life.

The bottom line

Although sneezing is a reflex that helps clear your nose and throat mucus, it can sometimes result in pain.

This article explored some of the possible reasons your body might hurt when you sneeze.

We hope you found this information helpful and informative. Check out our other articles for more interesting and helpful health information.

DISCLAIMER: buildyourbody.org does not provide medical advice, examination, or diagnosis.

Medically reviewed and approved by Nataniel Josue M D.